Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Cleveland Indians. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
The Cleveland Indians can finally say one thing, they will have the most exciting and intriguing player in the entire game in 2009. Grady Sizemore has blossomed into a do it all superstar and a guy who will get this team back into the postseason due to his talent alone. When I see Sizemore, I see a guy who is not only physically gifted but has all the qualities of a “watch how I do it” leader who makes his teammates better. Guys will play harder for just being on the same roster as Grady. He went 30/30 last year, and this year he’ll make a push at 40/40. Fans of baseball need to sit back and appreciate this guy; he’s 26 years of age and a breath of fresh air for the game. He isn’t a pure power hitter, just a ballplayer who can really make exciting things happen in centerfield, on the basepaths and at the plate. He should be hitting third but Eric Wedge’s inability to change things will limit Sizemore’s RBI numbers. It still doesn’t matter as Cleveland will be the Sizemore show in 2009. Sizemore will make a run for his first MVP award this upcoming season.
There are other questions for the Indians. Travis Hafner’s return to health will be a really big factor as to what kind of lineup they will have (as well as Victor Martinez returning to be effective offensively). Shin-Soo Choo is going to possibly hit in the middle of that lineup. I’ve heard he’s got a lot of pop but I don’t know how I feel about him as a middle of the lineup run producer. He’s a huge wildcard. Reports say Jhonny Peralta ripped the cover off the ball all spring. The guy can just hit. Mark DeRosa is a great addition as the 2nd hitter in the lineup. They have some deceiving pop in this lineup. Garko was a guy who always should have hit a ton but took a step back last season. Kelly Shoppach can hit. Asdrubal Cabrera is a dangerous 9 hole.
Then you have the rotation that trots out a Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee. Fausto Carmona has had a great spring, and you can look for him to rebound from last year to maybe being the finest pitcher on the staff. The wildcard in this rotation is Carl Pavano, who is pitching for a contract. Last time he had to do that he went wild. Then he went to New York and fans wanted to kick him in the nuts and harass his girlfriend. Pavano won’t be treated much better in Cleveland if he doesn’t deliver but we like the move. We feel Pavano could also approach his old form when he was dominant. When guys are money motivated, they do funny things. Anthony Reyes and Aaron Laffey are likely to round out the rotation.
The bullpen is a very strong one. Cleveland went out and acquired Kerry Wood to be the closer. Indians fans are excited about the move but this isn’t Kerry Wood from five years ago. He is succeptible to injury and breakdown. If he can stay healthy he’ll compile 40 saves. If not, it’s going to be Jensen Lewis, and that isn’t a bad thing. We think Lewis is ready to be a big league stopper right now. He’ll begin the year in the set-up role. Rafael Perez is one of the nastiest lefties in baseball when he’s on. Rafael Betancourt is a dominant reliever when he is going right. Masahide Kobayashi had his life ruined by Adam Dunn last year to the tune of a walk-off grand slam but he’s very good when he’s not asked to close out ballgames.
Look, this is a likable team. They aren’t going to blow away the American League but based on amounts of talent and character, they’re going to probably be tough. Eric Wedge is far from perfect but the guy knows how to win ballgames, even if it is in a questionable manner. This is an important year for him. If the Indians stay healthy, 90 wins is realistic. That win total would equal a division title, or at the very least a wildcard berth if something weird happens and a second team in the division can win more then 90.